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Game Preview #43: Wolves vs. Hornets

After a tough loss on Saturday night against the Thunder, the Wolves look to bounce back against one of the bottom teams in the East

Minnesota Timberwolves v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Matt Kelley/Getty Images

In a potential battle against two of the top-three selections from 2020 NBA Draft, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves will look to get back in the winning column at home before embarking on a four-game road trip. After losing their first home game since January 3 against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Wolves get some rest before taking on the Charlotte Hornets in what could be the first matchup against No. 3 overall pick LaMelo Ball this season. Ball missed the first matchup with an ankle injury, and is questionable for Monday night’s contest.


Game Info

  • Who: Charlotte Hornets (9-31) at Minnesota Timberwolves (30-12)
  • When: Monday, January 22 at 7:00 PM CT
  • Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, MN
  • TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Lea B. Olsen)
  • Radio: Wolves Radio App, KFAN FM 100.3
  • Line: Wolves -14.5, Total: 218.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

Injury Report

Updated as of Monday 1/22 at 5:20 PM CT.

Minnesota

AVAILABLE:

  • Anthony Edwards (illness)

OUT:

  • Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
  • Mike Conley (rest)
  • Leonard Miller (G League assignment)
  • Josh Minott (G League assignment)

Charlotte

AVAILABLE:

  • LaMelo Ball (right ankle soreness)

OUT:

  • Amari Bailey (two-way contract)
  • Gordon Hayward (left calf strain)
  • Nick Richards (right ankle sprain)
  • Mark Williams (low back injury recovery)

What to Watch For

San Antonio Spurs v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Matching Up Against LaMelo Ball

When the Timberwolves first took the floor with the Hornets on December 2, Ball was nursing an ankle injury that held him out for over a month and has left the Hornets with single-digit wins. Ball just returned from this injury on January 12 and had played in four games before missing Saturday’s matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. He has scored 20+ points and has had 5+ assists in every game since his return. The Hornets offense is much better with him on the floor and they run the majority of the their offense through him when he has been on the court.

In a season where the Wolves have had good luck when it comes to injuries and facing teams on short rest, it seems that Ball is on track to play after missing the last matchup. Jaden McDaniels, after getting the SGA matchup for the majority of the game on Saturday, will be sent right back into the fire and will be tasked with trying to slow LaMelo down on the offensive end. This will be fun for Wolves fans as they will get the chance to see one of the leagues young stars live and in person. This may not seem like much but while it has been good for the Wolves’ chances to win the game, it is way more fun for fans to be able to see some of the league’s best at Target Center.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Rudy and Mike Performing Against the Lower Tier Teams

The Timberwolves have a lot of young players on their roster. This can lead to some inconsistency in their play from night-to-night. We know that Karl-Anthony Towns can fall victim to this (at least somewhat matchup dependent for him) volatility and Edwards sometimes does not get up as much for the games with lower stakes. This is where the veterans can step up even more than they usually do. Rudy Gobert is always a force to be reckoned with, but when Minnesota plays against these teams lacking the talent to challenge him it gets very difficult very fast for these teams. He wreaks havoc at the rim and usually teams like the Hornets lack the personnel to guard someone as big as him on the offensive end and he is able to punish that. Gobert certainly did that in the first meeting, scoring a season-high 26 points on 10/12 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocks in a 123-117 win on December 2. The three bigs combined for 77 points in that one.

(Editor’s Note: Mike Conley was ruled out at 11:40 AM CT, about 15 hours after this article was posted.)

Mike Conley is in the same boat. While he probably had his worst game of the season on Saturday night by shooting 1/11 and 1/9 from 3 (something unheard of since he joined the roster), he usually is always very consistent night-to-night. Conley is as professional as they get and will always show up no matter the circumstance. His ability to see the game usually means that he is 10 steps ahead of a young team like Charlotte is. Look for him to bounce back in this matchup.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Exorcising the Hornets Demons

It is no secret that the Wolves struggled against bottom tier teams last season. They would continuously lose to the bottom teams in the league and it was always scary to see those squads on the schedule. They have completely flipped the script this season and while they haven’t destroyed the bad teams, they have done a great job of winning those games - even if they don’t play their best.

Last season, during these poor performances against the some of the worst teams, they lost to the Hornets in both matchups. They lost 110-108 and 121-113 to a Hornets team that finished second-to-last in the East with a record of 27-55. This is a game they will be heavily favored in and they have to convert. After the tough part of the schedule that happened from December into January, they have hit a section where they play the majority of the teams that are at the bottom of the league record-wise. This is another one of those matchups and they can’t let their mentality slip. Every game is important in this tight Western Conference and if the Wolves want to hold home court advantage or even the No. 1 seed they have to keep winning the games they should win.